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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran Press TV

Erdogan warns against missile strikes during upcoming Idlib liberation operation

Iran Press TV

Wed Sep 5, 2018 07:01AM

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned against missile strikes during an upcoming military campaign by the Syrian army to liberate Idlib Province, the last major militant stronghold in the Arab country.

Erdogan told reporters on Wednesday that a possible large-scale military action in Idlib would lead to a new wave of refugees toward Turkey.

"The situation in Idlib is crucial for Turkey. A ruthless process has been going on there. ... God forbid, if this area is hailed by missiles there would be a serious massacre," Erdogan was quoted as saying by Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News.

With the help of Iran, Russia and Lebanon's Hezbollah resistance movement, the Syrian army is preparing for the Idlib operation, a strategically-important region which shares a border with Turkey and is also close to the coastal Latakia Province.

Idlib also hosts Turkish-backed militants fighting against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Erdogan stressed that a positive outcome is expected from the upcoming Syria summit in Iran.

"We will carry this issue to a positive point with the Tehran summit, which is a continuation of Astana," he said.

The presidents of Iran, Russia and Turkey, the countries acting as the guarantors of the ceasefire in Syria, will meet in Tehran on Friday for a third summit seeking an end to the crisis gripping the Arab country.

'Manbij roadmap not going forward'

Additionally, the Turkish president touched on the situation in Syria's northern city of Manbij, complaining that a recently-agreed roadmap between Ankara and Washington on the city, which is controlled by US-backed Kurdish militants, is not proceeding as agreed.

"We are not at an ideal point (about Manbij). Unfortunately the agreement made is not going forward in the same direction as the initial discussions," he said.

Back in June, Turkey and the US agreed on joint patrols in Manbij to clear the area of Washington-backed Kurdish militants, which Turkey views as terrorists linked to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers' Party militant group.

In a relevant development on Tuesday, Syria's Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar emphasized that the country's Kurdish-held northeast will not be given special treatment and will be dealt with in the same way as other parts of the war-torn state.

"We cannot give any Syrian province something which differentiates it from other provinces or ethnicities, or (allow it) any situation which strikes at the idea that Syria is one country and one society," he said in an interview with Russia's Arabic-language Sputnik news agency.

With the Syrian government focused on crushing foreign-backed militants and Takfiri terrorists, Kurdish militants carved out a de facto autonomous region in the country's north and northeast which was later occupied by US troops, raising fears that they might be aiming to partition the country.

The developments have raised serious concerns in Ankara and turned into a source of tensions between Turkey and the US, its NATO ally.

The Damascus government now controls more than two-thirds of Syria and is determined to reassert its authority over Kurdish-controlled regions.

"The solution to the problem now is for the Kurdish groups dealing with America to turn their backs on this and turn to the Syrian state," Haidar added.

'Turkey follows rule of law on pastor case'

Furthermore, the Turkish president referred to the case of detained American pastor Andrew Brunson and said that Ankara cannot fulfill "unlawful requests" by the US regarding the issue.

Erdogan noted that Turkey followed the rule of law and that Washington would not be able to make progress in the case by using threats.

The two sides are entangled in a dispute over Ankara's imprisonment of the evangelical Christian pastor. He has been accused of having links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the Gulen movement, which Turkey blames for the 2016 failed military coup.

The US has called for Brunson's release and taken a series of punitive measures against Turkey over the pastor's detainment.

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